Tag Archives: seasons

Summer Solace

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“If a June night could talk, it would probably boast it invented romance.” –Bern Williams

I am not a summer girl.  I loved school and hated to see it end.  Yes, a little rest and freedom from homework was welcome, and the night owl in me embraced the late nights and sleeping through the morning, but in general, I do not love summer.  I hate the heat.  I miss school.  I get lonely and bored.  I get antsy.  I am not a swimmer, not a sunbather, not a traveler.  The months creep past with slow, oppressive heat and the stale smell of sweat and lethargy invades the house.

But my disdain for the sunny months does not dim the nostalgic ache I feel for childhood summers.  I hated them in the moment, but look back with longing for those small town heat waves.

Summers were hot.  I remember lying still on the living room carpet, fighting my brothers for position in front of the big metal fan that stood on our hearth.  At night, after darkness crept through the valley, we opened windows and amped up fans to blow what little cool air existed through the house.   I remember the little brown fan, oscillating on my dresser, and the welcome touch of its breeze as it swayed side to side in the darkness.  Mornings started with a welcome chill, clean bright sun stretching across the neighborhood.  The moments were brief before the sun began its cruel work.  We bathed in sunscreen before swimming, hid in the house during midday.  Summer nights came slow, late, and never as strong as we hoped.  The heat never left, but there is something magical about a starry night, barefoot on the warm cement and cool grass.

I remember splashing in our wading pool out on the cement.  My brothers and I would fill it with cold water from the hose, sliding through the cool stream that penetrated the heated water from the day before.  We wore swim masks and snorkels and would lay on our stomachs and “swim” circles around the pool, dragging our half-submerged bodies in circles to create a small current, and then let it push us as we sat still.  I played dress up in old bridesmaid dresses with my friend, pretending we were brides and princesses, and we picked questionable berries from the shrubs to use for “real” food to play house.  I watched Stick Stickley in my bedroom as I moved furniture and cleaned out drawers until I could no longer stand the afternoon sun baking my windows.  We painted pictures and wrote poems and tried new recipes for the fair.  It was frightening and thrilling to walk the halls and find our entries, some with ribbons, and find other names we recognized.  I can smell the 4H livestock and feel the straw beneath my feet as cotton candy melted on my tongue.

As I grew older, summers changed.  It meant summer school to get ahead and to get my driver’s permit.  It was my first regular job, working at the city’s summer camp.  That was when I got my first honest to goodness tan, spending afternoons watching kids swim in the public pool.  We were mobile and employed, so we spent the summer free.  We had barbecues and parties, spent late nights at the lake and in back yards.  We walked the empty streets and played running charades at the elementary school.

Then, just like Harry Potter’s owl, letters came each August containing our school supply lists.  I loved shopping for notebooks and pens, but secretly feared that first day back.  It was so scary to see everyone for the first time, see new faces, see how everyone had changed.  There was so much at stake when we returned, frantic phone calls comparing class lists and finding someone, anyone that was in our classes.  There were new uniforms to iron and new outfits to assemble.  There was so much anticipation in the end, such a far cry from the endless, lazy days before.

I remember shorts and swimsuits, popsicles and fireworks.  When I think of summer my skin grows feverish and the heat hugs its way around my body.  I can see my mom’s beautifully browned legs as I sat between them while she covered me in cool, creamy sun screen.  I can smell the metallic water, dribbling from the hose, as we made a “safe” path of wet cement, between our chalk artwork, to walk barefoot on.  The crickets and bicycle tires echo through the dark streets in the cool of late night, as the neighborhood comes to life.  I hate the sweat and the loneliness and stagnation.  I hate summer.  And as I remember those moments, the summers of childhood, tears fill my tired eyes and I know without a doubt that I would give anything to return to those blistering days.

“Memory is a complicated thing, a relative to truth, but not its twin.”  –Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams

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“Delicious Autumn!”

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“Fallen leaves lying on the grass in the November sun bring more happiness than the daffodils.” –Cyril Connolly

This afternoon I had the pleasure of meandering through downtown with a good friend and nothing to do.  We wandered, talked, took in our city, and simply savored the day.  It was gray and breezy and as close to Fall as we get.  I love the season of Fall.  It’s understated, milder than its neighboring seasons, and one that not all areas get to enjoy.  I miss it.

Spring gets most of the glory.  It is the beginning of life.  Days grow longer and temperatures begin to rise.  The chill of winter fades away and green floods the earth.  Summer is the fun one.  It’s free and exciting, no school or worries.  It’s about water and travel and lazy, late nights in the cool hours of the day.  Winter gets a bad rap.  It is dead and dark, but it is also about celebrations: Christmas, the start of a new year.  It, in its own way, is about life as well.  Fall doesn’t get the attention it deserves. 

I love the gradual chill that creeps in as Fall takes hold.  It starts with a breeze, with scattered clouds in the afternoons.  Suddenly it’s dark in the evening and cool all night.  Sweaters emerge from their hiding places and blankets cover beds.  Grilled cheese and soup replace snow cones and iced tea.  As leaves crisp and fall, it seems that the season brings about death and an end to fun and long days.  On the contrary, Fall is about life, about what we work and live for.  Harvests come in.  What was once a seed, a hope and work, is now fruit, sustenance, results.  Our expectant patience is rewarded with abundance.   

Fall is filled with memory.  I can smell the sweet, freshly cut wood delivered to our home.  Still sticky with sap and bark, we piled it up for the winter.  I can feel my hand fill with the strings and seeds inside of our jack-o-lanterns as we cleaned them out.  The first crackling fire glows at my back as its heat penetrates my pajamas, drying my hair after a warm bath.  The rush of a cold wind across my face brings back lunches outside during school and changing leaves bring home to me.  I can hear the rake scraping across the grass, gathering the crisp leaves.  They scratch as we jumped into piles of them, the smell of them crumbling in my hand.  Fall is childhood more than any other season.  It is togetherness.  As darkness comes faster and faster, more of our time is spent together.  More hot dinners bring us around the table.  It’s the excitement of school beginning, the adventure of Halloween, and the anticipation of Winter.

 As much as I love the experience of Fall, or perhaps the memory of it, I also appreciate that it has a place in the cycle of the year.  The winds and rains would not be as welcome if Summer were not so brutal.  The red leaves would not draw my eye if green were not so rich before.  Crops would not be ready to gather if they had not grown and matured through the rain and heat.  Fall puts the other seasons into perspective.  In the cold darkness, we remember the warm sun.  The empty branches create space for Spring’s buds to grow.  I like the Summer best during the Winter.  And it’s the other seasons that make Fall so sweet.  It’s not as severe as the Winter that follows, kinder than the Summer that precedes it.  It is the older sibling of Spring, somehow wiser, slower, more deliberate.  It has more restrain and grace than the excited and eager Spring.  It is part of a cycle, balancing and offsetting the other seasons.  In the city of 73 degrees and sunny, I miss the beauty of four distinct seasons.  However today, for a few hours, Fall wandered the city with a couple of friends.

“It takes some cold to know the sun/  It takes the one to have the other”  –Jason Mraz